When African Religion Gives Scars and Demands Blood

“I forgave you the day you threw me out.” Daouda

Daouda, a Nigerian, came to visit me in my office in Mali. He is an interesting man. He always has a story to tell from his life. He is so traveled, in so many west African countries that he always has engaging stories to share. Every time he comes I am left scratching my head.   I shared his story about the coup in Northern Mali in 2012. – (In Timbuktu,  I Laid On The Floor Like A Lizard For Two Weeks. Malian Radicalism)

Daouda used to work in the north until Al-Qaeda took over. He had to flee, and is now living in the same Malian town as me, after fleeing.

I write this story down just after the telling.  As correctly as i can summarize the hour long events he shared with me that day in my Sikasso office. I wrote these words down three years ago, but held on to this story, never sharing it in public, until now.

I think it was fear.

  • Fear I would not do Daouda’s story justice, and I do not.
  • Fear that some westerner reading it would ascribe false intentions as to why I shared it.
  • Fear that I would sound like I was bashing Islam by simply transcribing a story told to me.

I assure you, as a once ordained, trained, christian theologian  (Bachelors Degree in Sacred Literature) I am well aware that religious tribalism is alive and well among “Christians” in Canada. I grew up in a place where Catholics and Protestants had bitter fights in house, behind closed doors, when a family member dated, or worse yet, declared an upcoming marriage to someone from the other tribe. Things said with such hate, threats, and anger that these same people would dare not say the same things in public, they would be ashamed as it is so religiously tribal.

This is not my story, it is Daouda’s story.

In short, Daouda has bleed, been beaten, and physically scared and branded by religion.

Daouda was born and raised as a Nigerian Muslim, raised in Koranic schools, and he memorized the whole Koran. He told about how he would insult and spit on Christians because that is what he was taught to do, it would merit them a better place in Paradise, he was told, so he lived this way.

But let me skip past his “Conversion Story” to Christianity.  Which involves several dreams about Jesus speaking to him, and guiding him to his new faith, Jesus supposedly asked him why he does what he does.

These claimed dreams are typical of most Muslims leaving Islam I am told, and many are choosing to leave Islam. Islam is hemorrhaging in North and Sub-Saharan Africa. Partially the reason there is such a push back by radical fundamentalists all over this region. The only way to stop the leaving followers is to threaten the masses into submission. Make it hell for someone who does leave, in the hopes that more will not.

Daouda spoke to a local Nigerian Christian Pastor about his Jesus dreams. When his mother heard he had spoken to a Christian minister she had the man arrested.  The pastor was put in Jail for some time from the false accusations. He did nothing wrong, but had to sit in jail until it was worked out.

His father and mother were irate when they found out Daouda became a Jesus follower. He was beaten many times over a three year period. At times not given food, not spoken to. Daouda pulled up his shirt and turned around to show me the scars on his back and arms. His back was a horrifying mess.  His father even cut a cross on his arm with a machete, when he said he would not renounce. The Picture below is the poorly done hatchet job. We hear about stories like this, but when you see the living scars, where blood flowed it becomes very real, very personal. I was in tears.

“If you want to be a cross follower, you should bare the mark on your body for all to see.” his father said, as he crudely cut this cross into his arm.

img_000000_000000-01.jpeg
The cross cut in Daouda’s arm by his Muslim Father with a Machete

Daouda was ostracized, written out of the family will.

Even his fathers Catholic Lawyer said to Daouda, “Look at all you are going to loose. There is only one God, why loose all this. Tell your father what he wants to hear, it does not matter.”

Daouda said he could not.

Daouda said he used to burn any bibles he could get his hands on, and now he was reading one. He said in his dream Jesus told him to take the bible he had on his shelf to burn, and read it. All he did for the first three months after the dream was read the bible to know what was in there. He began telling people about what he was reading.

The problem for Daouda was that he was stuck in this rejected middle ground. His muslim family did not want anything to do with him. Yet the Christians he knew were afraid to go near him as well. Because he used to curse, abuse and spit on them before, as a good practicing radical. Now he had no friends on either side of the faith fence, he could not go to their churches because they did not trust him, and did not welcome his presence.

Anyway, finally Daouda’s father told him to leave, he had no more home here, no more father , mother, brothers or sisters here. He was put out of the house in 1994.  Daouda left his town, ended up in Togo, where he entered a bible college to learn more. After which he also spent time in Benin, Northern Ivory Coast, and eventually to Mali,  in Timbuktu and Gao, all in the name of his Jesus. He is missionary of sorts it seems.

However, all these years later his father calls him out of the blue one day.

The family had long since assumed Daouda was dead, since he never return and recant his faith.

A family friend saw Daouda in Bamako 2005 , 11 years later, and got his number. When back in Nigeria he told  Daouda father that Daouda is alive. His father was surprised he was still alive. “Is he really alive,” he asked. The young man said i saw him with my own eyes… i spoke to him, and i have his number. So Daouda’s father called him and asked questions to assure it was his really his son., and not some scam.  Daouda said that in 2006 his father sent money so he could come home and visit the family. While there, they apologized for what they done to Daouda. They confessed how wrong and mistaken to act that way they abused and tortured him.

“Can you forgive me for what I have done?” Daouda’s father asked him

“I forgave you the day you threw me out.” Daouda said.

 

Daouda and his young wife, whom I knew before he arrive here, went to visit Nigerian family in 2013, and she was well received.

Goes to show there is hope. Blood was drawn over religion. Wounds were inflicted, permanent scars on bodies were formed.

However, Daouda is what he chooses to be, as is his father. But now they have found some kind of peace.

“How can it be, that I should gain and interest in my Savior’s love.”

Worldly Religion wants your blood. Wants to punish here and now for your “bad choces” The true path is more gracious than this.

 

  • for security purposes Daoud’s name was changed.

 

 

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